How Not to Organize Written Exams

The traditional and efficient way for setting up and grading written exams is to have a professorship create the exam, supervise the actual exam, and then also have them grade it. They will usually use a team in the supervision of the exam and the grading, where work is split by exam question: One person (or a team in the case of a large exam) gets to grade one question across all exams. This ensures fairness, consistency, and speed.

Enter the Bavarian Ministry of Education. It invented a wholly different approach to creating and grading written exams. Here, it applies to students aiming to become informatics high school teachers.

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Dear Ph.D. Student: Don’t be Afraid of Prior Art

A first step in a one-person research project in a domain new to a researcher (Ph.D. student) is to read-up on related work. This can be daunting, as sometimes it feels like everything has been done already, and there is nothing new to write a dissertation about. Fear not! With enough digging, the opportunities will present itself.

In software engineering research, the value of past engineering work can be confusing. What does it mean that there is an open source project in which someone implemented something similar to your idea? And even wrote a blog post or report about it? The short answer: This is a golden opportunity for fabulous research and not a threat to your idea.

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Price for Value, not for Costs

If there is one thing I wished more of my fellow academic peers would understand when working with industry, it is this: You should

Price for value created, not for costs incurred.

Many professors, when asked about the price of some proposed work, will calculate the direct labor costs needed for the project, add some university overhead or other margin, and then quote the industry partner the resulting costs as the project’s price.

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How to Present a Theory (as a Handbook)

The key output of research is a theory or something supporting the building or validation of a theory. A theory, in turn, is knowlege, for example in the form of a model, that lets us predict the future or create reliable output in some form. Scientists usually publish theories for other scientists to review, in journals.

But what about the practitioners that we are creating the theories for in the first place?

In this video I present a way of codifying (presenting) theories as practical pattern handbooks so that practitioners can use these handbooks and apply your theory. This way, we connect science to practice and hopefully help make the world a better place. It also helps to get industry engaged in your work.

An associated (preprint) technical report, soon a journal paper, is available with more information. The slides for the video above are also available.

The Value of Articles With No Relevance

I’m listening to Lutz Prechelt’s keynote at the German Software Engineering research community conference. He is talking about how we should not be undertaking research that has no relevance, and he is demonstrating this by presenting research based on ludicruous assumptions (that will never be real, not in this nor another world).

Nobody could disagree with this, no?

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Dear Editor [of an Elsevier Journal]

Thank you for the request to review an article.

My usual reviewing fee for Elsevier journals is one full year of free access to your digital library for my university.

However, Elsevier has locked out German universities from accessing research on their websites, including our own. So in addition to my usual fee I must also ask that you return to the negotiating table and find a way that we can access our research again.

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